Sarah Cwiek

Sarah Cwiek - Detroit Reporter/Producer

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October, 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit. Before her arrival at Michigan Radio, Sarah worked at WDET-FM as a reporter and producer.

Pages

Politics & Government
6:00 am
Wed April 16, 2014

Detroit City Council approves massive property transfer to city land bank

The Detroit Land Bank Authority is a key part of Mayor Mike Duggan's anti-blight efforts.
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit City Council has agreed to transfer more than 16,000 city owned properties to Detroit’s land bank authority.

The transfer allows Mayor Mike Duggan’s ambitious blight eradication efforts to move forward.

Duggan wants to use the non-profit land bank as a key tool in the fight against blight.

Read more
Politics & Government
6:00 am
Tue April 15, 2014

Detroit launches online auction site to fill vacant homes

One of the first Detroit homes up for auction in East English Village.
Credit via buildingdetroit.org

The city of Detroit has launched an effort to fill some of its vacant homes with new residents – an online auction site for city-owned properties.  

There are 15 houses listed on the site now. The plan is for the Detroit Land Bank Authority to start auctioning off one home a day, starting May 5.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says this is part of the city “moving aggressively” to deal with blight.

Duggan says the idea is to get the homes fixed up, and people living in them, as soon as possible.

Read more
Politics & Government
11:20 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Bankruptcy case delays Detroit's usual budget process

Detroit’s bankruptcy case is throwing a wrench in the city’s usual budget process.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan didn’t give his charter-mandated city budget address as scheduled Monday.

Rather, officials told City Council members that Detroit needs to update its plan of adjustment first. That’s the city’s restructuring blueprint for getting through bankruptcy.

Detroit chief financial officer John Hill said that since the plan will shape the city budget, it doesn’t make sense start talking now.

Read more
Law
9:11 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

Detroit bankruptcy judge ok's swaps settlement; says "now is the time to negotiate"

Judge Steven Rhodes approved a key settlement in Detroit’s historic bankruptcy case Friday.

The deal will settle a costly interest-rate swaps agreement with two banks, UBS and Bank of America, for $85 million.

Emergency manager Kevyn Orr has pushed hard for such a deal. Detroit had guaranteed the swaps with casino revenue, and paid out about $200 million since 2009.

Read more
Politics & Government
6:00 am
Thu April 10, 2014

Bond insurer ups the ante in battle over the Detroit Institute of Arts

One group who stands to lose a lot in Detroit’s bankruptcy has upped the ante in the battle over the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The Financial Guaranty Insurance Corporation, a major bond insurer, has gone out and solicited bids for the museum’s assets.

And in papers filed in federal bankruptcy court Wednesday, FGIC said it’s received four tentative bids for the museum’s assets, or portions of them.

The bidders include:

Read more
Politics & Government
12:51 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Detroit starts posting legal notices in new fight vs. blight

Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The city of Detroit has started posting legal notices on 79 abandoned homes in one city neighborhood, warning homeowners to clean up the property--or risk a lawsuit, and the city seizing the home.

The effort in the west side neighborhood near Marygrove College was announced Wednesday afternoon by Mayor Mike Duggan, in what he called a "bold experiment" to fight blight.

It will work like this: once a notice is posted, homeowners have 72 hours to contact the city and arrange to sign a consent agreement. It will stipulate that the homeowner clean up the property, and move someone into the house within 60 days.

If that doesn't happen, the city can sue to have the Detroit Land Bank Authority seize the house. The Land Bank will then re-sell properties it deems "salvageable" at auction.

“When you leave your house abandoned, it is a nuisance to the neighborhood," Duggan said. "And you cannot legally leave your property in a way that’s a nuisance.

"I'm going to give every single person when we sue them the choice—either sign the court order to get it fixed up and occupied, or we’re going to take title.”

Duggan said it will be "fascinating" to see how the program plays out in the Marygrove neighborhood effort plays out over the next 90 days--but that plans are already in the works to expand it to other neighborhoods.

Duggan said represents a shift away from the "mindless demolition" approach to blight eradication--though many homes that are simply unsalvageable will have to be demolished. “If we take down the houses that can’t be saved, and we sell what’s left…I think people will value that," Duggan said.

Lola Holton, a 39-year resident of the neighborhood, said she's ready to see "results."

"I'm very, very excited about having community back," Holton said. "That's what we need. We've lost that. 

"Not only the restoration and taking boards down, but putting families in these houses. To build community."

 

Law
11:43 am
Wed April 9, 2014

Breakthrough settlement announced in Detroit bankruptcy case

Kevyn Orr
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Mediators in Detroit’s bankruptcy case have made a potentially huge breakthrough with some of the city’s bondholders.

Bondholders are one of the city’s biggest groups of unsecured creditors.

That means they’re also one of the most important groups for emergency manager Kevyn Orr to get on board with his plan of adjustment, and avoid a protracted legal battle that could bog the city down in bankruptcy court for months or years.

Now, negotiators for the city and three major bond insurers have announced a settlement deal.

Read more
Politics & Government
7:00 am
Mon April 7, 2014

Local governments are hopeful, cautious about state road-funding plan

Credit wikipedia

The organization championing the interests of Michigan’s local governments is withholding judgment on a proposal to fix the state’s roads.

Officials with the Michigan Municipal League say they’re cautiously hopeful about the plan Republican State House leader Jase Bolger unveiled last week.

Read more
Law
5:30 am
Mon April 7, 2014

Key ruling expected this week in Detroit bankruptcy

Judge Steven Rhodes will make a major ruling in Detroit’s ongoing bankruptcy case this week.

Rhodes will decide whether the city can settle an interest-rate swaps deal with two major banks for $85 million.

Detroit had hoped to hedge against interest rates rising when it entered into the swaps deal on some city pension debt in 2006.

But interest rates fell to nearly 0, and Detroit has been forced to shell out about $200 million to UBS and Bank of America since 2009.

Read more
Politics & Government
4:00 pm
Sat April 5, 2014

"Financial emergency" declared in yet another Michigan city

A state review team has officially concluded that a “financial emergency” exists in the city of Lincoln Park.

The small suburb in the downriver area just south of Detroit is running a slight deficit right now, despite having a $4.5 million general fund balance in 2010.

According to the review team’s findings, city officials estimate that deficit will grow by at least $1 million by the middle of this year—more if the city can’t get concessions from its police unions.

Governor Snyder has 10 days to confirm the review team’s findings.

Read more
Law
6:00 am
Fri April 4, 2014

Man accused of using fake religious organization to run foreclosure rescue scam

Anthony Carta
Credit Michigan Attorney General's office

Michigan’s Attorney General says a Detroit man defrauded more than 100 people in southeast Michigan with a fake mortgage rescue scam.

Bill Schuette says Anthony Carta ran the scam through a phony religious organization called Freedom by Faith Ministries.

Carta promised homeowners facing foreclosure he’d settle up with their mortgage lenders, for a fee. But he would pocket that money instead.

Carta is accused of stealing more than $300,000 this way. He’s being charged with conducting a criminal enterprise and two other felonies.

Read more
Politics & Government
10:04 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Orr turns up the heat on Detroit pensioners; they push back

Retirees protest outside federal court in Detroit.
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit pensioners are trying to turn up the heat on emergency manager Kevyn Orr Tuesday – just as he’s doing the same thing to them.

Protesters filled the street in front of Detroit’s federal courthouse on Tuesday to slam Orr’s proposed cuts to city pensions.

Orr filed a revised version of his bankruptcy restructuring plan there Monday. An earlier version, known formally as a plan of adjustment, was filed in February.

Read more
Politics & Government
6:00 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Detroit City Council approves lease deal that closes the book on Joe Louis Arena

Credit Wikipedia

With a 5-4 vote, the Detroit City Council has narrowly approved a controversial lease deal for the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.

The lease is retroactive to 2010, and runs through 2015. It has five one-year extension options.

The deal will cover the Wings’ remaining playing days at the Joe. The city has already cleared the way for the team’s owners to build a new, $450-million arena complex elsewhere in Detroit.

Read more
Education
9:00 am
Mon March 31, 2014

Some former Education Achievement Authority teachers, parents, paint a troubling picture

An EAA slogan outside Nolan Elementary-Middle School.
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The state legislature is considering bills that would expand a state-led effort to turn around Michigan’s lowest performing schools.

Right now, the Education Achievement Authority is in charge of 15 schools, all of them in Detroit.

In this second half of a two-part series, we’ll hear from some people who’ve been inside the current EAA—and paint a less-than-rosy picture.

“Disrupting” traditional education?

Governor Snyder has long urged state lawmakers to create more policy options for turning around historically low-performing schools.

Read more
Education
10:39 am
Thu March 27, 2014

Education Achievement Authority still faces uphill fight

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Gov. Snyder read to schoolkids during a tour of Detroit schools last year. Duncan called the EAA "the future of education."
Credit Jake Neher / MPRN

The state Legislature could soon give Gov. Snyder something he’s wanted for a long time: a bill that would clear the way for the controversial Education Achievement Authority to expand.

The Senate is now considering a bill passed by the House that would, among other things, allow the EAA to expand beyond Detroit. The state-run district for the lowest-performing schools is the governor’s signature education initiative.

Read more
Developing
4:00 pm
Sat March 22, 2014

Same-sex couples flock to clerks' offices to wed ahead of temporary stay

Jere Clausen and Bruce Walters were the first gay couple to be married in Muskegon County this morning.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Update 5:05 p.m.

In a reversal from what it signaled earlier in the day, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a temporary stay on the decision to strike down Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage. 

The court said it issued the stay to allow a "more reasoned consideration" of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's request for a hold on Friday's decision.

3:43 p.m.

Read more
Politics & Government
2:17 pm
Sat March 22, 2014

Snyder touts benefits of foreign investment for Michigan

Governor Rick Snyder

Governor Snyder says a new survey shows his efforts to attract more international investment in Michigan is paying off.

The “insourcing” survey cites Michigan for adding more than 250,000 private sector jobs since 2010, and 32,000 from foreign investment in 2011 alone –more than twice as many as any other state.

The survey found that the heads of multinational firms are cautiously bullish about doing business in the U.S., but things could be better.

Read more
Politics & Government
6:00 am
Fri March 21, 2014

Orr looks to private sector for help with Detroit water department mess

Credit wikimedia commons

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr is looking at potential private operators for the city’s water system.

Orr says the city has been forced to consider leasing the water system to a private operator because talks to create a regional authority with suburban customers broke down.

Read more
Environment & Science
6:00 am
Fri March 21, 2014

Dearborn steel mill wants state to loosen emission limits, neighbors worry

A Dearborn steel plant wants the state to let it legally emit more air pollution, a prospect that doesn’t sit well with many of the people who live nearby.

The massive, 350-acre Severstal steel complex sits in a heavily industrial area along the Dearborn-Detroit border. It’s been cited 37 times for violating its current state air quality permit.

But Severstal thinks that permit was too strict. In its new permit application, the company wants the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to raise the emissions cap for a number of pollutants, including lead and carbon monoxide.

That angers many south Dearborn residents, like Norieah Ahmed. Speaking at a packed public hearing on the proposed new rules this week, Ahmed said her community already suffers from too much pollution.

“We cannot allow for an increase in permitted levels simply because Severstal once again can’t meet those standards,” Ahmed said.

Read more
Politics & Government
5:00 am
Wed March 19, 2014

Lease proposal: Joe Louis Arena to be darkened, demolished after Red Wings leave

The Detroit Red Wings’ owners will keep renting Joe Louis arena through at least 2015, according to a proposed lease presented to the Detroit City Council Tuesday.

City officials have already cleared the way for the Red Wings’ owners, Mike and Marian Ilitch, to build a new arena complex for the hockey team.

But the question remains about what to do with Joe Louis Arena, which the city of Detroit owns. Right now, the two sides are retroactively negotiating a lease agreement that expired in 2010.

Read more

Pages